Originally published in The TuckerPatch
Divorce affects fifty-percent of all married couples in the United States. The concept often triggers thoughts of cold litigation, financial disturbances, and custody feuds. Thankfully, the method for divorce is taking on an innovative spin.
Tucker resident Robert Bordett, a financial consultant as well as a principal and founder of Divorce Innovations, teamed up with colleagues Marsha Schechtman and Dr. Paul Fair to rewrite the traditional chaos that is divorce. “The three of us founded this all together. We’ve been developing Divorce Innovations probably for a couple of years. We went live as of January 2012 with this concept,” Bordett said.
What is so original about the Divorce Innovations concept? This modern method for divorce resides outside the realm of litigation and under the umbrella of Alternative Dispute Resolution. “If you were to think of a road map of somebody getting divorced, they could go to litigation, which is the old norm,” Bordett said. “Then you have Alternative Dispute Resolution models and under the title you then have options such as mediation, arbitration, there is one called collaborative divorce, and we came up with the model called integrated divorce.”
The four methods for divorce under the ADR model have varying degrees of resolution concepts. Arbitration is akin to having a private judge. “[The Arbitrator] will hear the evidence from both sides and then that person makes a decision which, if done properly, can be accepted by the court as binding,” Bordett said.
Unlike arbitration, mediation involves the use of a neutral third party. The mediator does not give advice, Bordett explained, but facilitates the discussion and helps the couple come to their own decisions.
Within the ADR model, it is the collaborative and integrated methods for divorce that greatly reflect an all-encompassing process. Both are team models. “The team consists of two trained collaborative attorneys, a trained financial neutral, and two trained coaches – mental health professionals mainly from the therapy side.”
The main difference between the two? Clients are required to sign an agreement in the collaborative model. “They sign an agreement called a participation agreement that says if either one of the [clients] decides to leave the process, the entire team is dismantled and they have to go out and get all new attorneys,” Bordett said. “That is the incentive that they want to stay with it.”
“Integrated is like an à la carte menu,” Bordett elaborated. “You get to use the tools in the toolbox just when you need them. If you need to have an attorney upfront to get your information, you have that ability. Each side can choose an attorney. Then they can choose a coach and choose a financial person.”
Bordett, who is certified in divorce planning and financial analysis, emphasized the nature of coaching within the ADR model. “Coaching… is going to be more of listening and communication skills, helping the clients with that. Then there is the child specialist. The child specialist… is a person who really becomes the advocate for the child to feed information back to the parents and to the coaches to help with a parenting plan that is required.”
The manner in which children are addressed at Divorce Innovations versus standard litigation highlights a gentler quality about the collaborative and integrated models for divorce. “In litigation, the kids are in the middle,” Bordett said. “I have seen it so many times, and that’s the reason I got out of it. There are always fingers pointed and the kids get stuck between Mom and Dad. In our models, that doesn’t happen. We focus on the children, but they are not in the middle. We don’t make them pawns in the game.”
One of the challenges faced during the creation of Divorce Innovations was informing people of the different methods available for divorcing families. “Our goals are to be able to get more and more people aware of the different models and more aware that they can do these things through brainstorming and working together rather than going the litigation route,” Bordett said.
“For years, I worked as an expert witness,” Bordett continued. “So, I was a hired gun. I would be hired by either the wife’s side or the husband’s side and so I would go into court and have to do an analysis and I would testify. And, when I was in that mode, I would testify the glass is half-empty and the other side would bring somebody in who would testify the glass is half-full. Now I get to go in as a neutral and say ‘OK. There are four ounces in the glass.’”
This neutral method is not without its successes. “It is the integrated and collaborative approach where the couples are working together to get divorced. It is an interesting concept that’s growing in popularity,” said Ann Warren, Public Relations Representative for Divorce Innovations.
“Unfortunately, divorce happens,” Bordett said. “We realize that. Nobody encourages it and nobody wants it but it does happen. I think with all of the proper knowledge and information out there, people can find that there are other ways of getting divorced than there were twenty years ago. I hope that is what Divorce Innovations brings.”